Anxiety about these symptoms becoming noticeable
causes a loved one to worry and have fears of swallowing,
especially in social settings.
Quality of life is something a caregiver can maintain for a
loved one by understanding, changing positioning, making
proper food choices and helping with safe swallowing
strategies as well as diet modification.
Foods which are stringy, floppy, or coarse and those that
require a controlled movement are hard for someone with
dysphagia to consume. Some examples include bacon,
lettuce, peanuts, raw foods and peanut butter.
It’s easier to take medications in a liquid form or crushed
and mixed with pureed fruits. Cooking, mashing, liquidizing
and thickening foods as necessary are ways to make them
easily swallowed by a loved one with dysphagia.
While eating out or at a social gathering, a caregiver should
plan ahead. Call the host or restaurant and explain the
situation, so it’s not a big deal in front of a loved one. This
eliminates extra stress on both parties, and makes the
outing as smooth as possible, and even “normal.” Without
planning, it could be a major upset if the host is not aware.
While these tips may seem simple, they are also timeconsuming
and overwhelming for someone with dysphagia.
A caregiver can help by involving a loved one in the process
of food preparation, or just picking where to eat and what
to eat on an outing. It helps build self-esteem, but also
promotes saliva flow, which will help in swallowing when
A big strategy is patience and taking enough time when
eating with a loved one. Rushing through a meal is an open
invitation for aspiration or choking. Encourage a loved
one to eat small amounts and if possible, smaller, more
frequent meals. Sometimes fatigue and weakness reduce
swallowing ability and causes distress in a loved one.
The posture a loved one has during eating and drinking
is extremely important if they suffer from dysphagia.
Sitting upright will help both breathing and swallowing,
as will having both feet flat on the floor. After meals,
it’s necessary for a caregiver to help a loved one remain
upright for 30 to 45 minutes, to reduce the chances of
reflux issues occurring.
A therapist may recommend simple fixes such as before
swallowing, having a loved one lower their chin toward
the chest to reduce the chance of food going down the
“wrong tube.” Also, small mouthfuls will give more control
over the chewing and swallowing, to reduce the possibility
of the food slipping to the back of the throat before it’s
Sometimes a variety of “tools” may help as well, such as
a special straw that prevents liquids from falling to the
bottom once sucked up. Therapeutic cups are available
to take along which will aid in a loved one only receiving a
small, measured amount of the drink during each swallow.
While social conversation is a big part of a meal-time
gathering, it can be dangerous for a loved one with
dysphagia. Talking is connected with breathing, and if a
person is excited to share something, it’s easy for them to
forget about the food or drink they need to swallow at the
Most people don’t like to hear, talk or implement changes
in their diet or daily routines. Many times it’s associated
with a loss of some sort, whether it is overall freedom or
enjoyment of foods they have come to expect over the
years, especially at holidays and family celebrations.
While a loved one may say that they are now back to eating
“baby food,” a caregiver can help overcome these negative
images by reinforcing the importance of these changes
for mere survival. Ensuring nutrition and hydration are
essential to life, and based on the severity of the swallowing
problem, the changes may not be permanent.
Whether through a modified diet, therapy or just an
increased awareness, a loved one can prevent more serve
complications down the road and also live a fulfilling social
life with dysphagia. A caregiver can help them realize that
there are good foods and enriching experiences available to
them, with a little time spent on research and preparation.